Officials with Riverbend Development have offered details on a proposal to build dozens of condominiums on undeveloped land in Charlotteville’s Belmont neighborhood.
“I know on this site in particular I have been working with the neighborhood off and on for at least five years regarding this site and we’ve owned it for well over a decade now I believe,” said Ashley Davies with Riverbend Development.
A previous submission that looked more like neighboring City Walk Apartments had gone to a site plan review conference in 2018 but that version did not move forward.
“A lot of the feedback that we got from the neighborhood from that time is just that it felt like these two buildings were too big compared to what you see in the rest of the neighborhood,” Davies said.
This development would include 130 total units and it needs city approval on three applications. Both a major subdivision and a site plan can be approved by staff, but a third requires endorsement by elected officials.
“A critical slope waiver due to impacts to critical slopes requires a City Council action,” said city planner Matt Alfele said. “This means that application will go to the Planning Commission for a recommendation and then City Council for a final decision.”
No date has been set for that Planning Commission meeting and a public hearing is not required.
The six acres of property span many parcels which would be combined in the major subdivision. Since 2003, the zoning has been for Neighborhood Commercial Corridor which allows for mixed-use.
Most of the buildings would be constructed in a form known as a two-over-two.
“It looks like a townhouse style unit on the outside but once you go into the unit it actually has two units each two floors tall and there’s garages on the backside that have parking internal to those units,” Davies said.
Davies said Riverbend has built these types of units at Brookhill in Albemarle County and they have proven to be popular. Eight of the units would be designated as being sale to households and individuals at a certain income level.
The property is currently being used for automotive repair. One neighbor asked if the site needed to be remediated due to potential contaminants in the soil. Scott Collins is an engineer working on the project
“As far as contaminants, they’ll be testing the soil as well when the asphalt and concrete is removed and checking the consistency of the soils and making sure it’s not contaminated and if it is, there are remediative measures that have to be in place,” Collins said.
The site plan must be approved by staff if it meets all of the technical requirements. Staff has not yet completed the comment letter that will go to Riverbend. People still have until June 15 to make a comment about the site plan or to ask a question.
But Council will have to approve a critical slopes waiver and one Councilor who attended the May 18 site plan conference did not like what he saw in the current project, taking his cues from a speaker from the Piedmont Environmental Council. Michael Payne said he preferred the previous approach Riverbend had taken.
“I just would say that I’m pretty disappointed at where this has ended up,” said Michael Payne. “I feel like where this ended up is the worst of all worlds in terms of as Peter Krebs [of PEC] said the most impervious surfaces, the least compact and clustered development. And also the least affordable development. It seems like its the most sprawled version which will have the most expensive units and I think this project just would have been much better off to be more clustered and have more apartments similar to the Belmont Lofts project or City Walk for that matter.”
One neighbor suggested the city make a swap with the developer.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely if the city could do an exchange with the owners of Belmont Holdings and give them the existing Clark School which is a gorgeous building with high ceilings and let them turn that into condominiums and turn this site into either a school or a park?” commented Deb Jackson.
This is not likely to occur.
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